Growing hair: it's free. Hair doesn't “grow on trees,” so to speak, but it does grow out of heads, which is basically the same thing. Just like that, you have a head of hair that becomes an undeniable part of your identity.
Wigs, however, are not free.
When a person loses their hair from chemo, alopecia, or any other reason, they may feel that they are losing a part of their identity and sense of self. It can be a huge blow to their self esteem. To top it all off, when they try to recover their confidence or feel “normal” by purchasing a wig, they may also take a huge blow to their wallets.
Wigs can be life changing. However, not everyone can afford one. Fortunately, there are ways to get free wigs; one way is through organizations that make wigs from donated hair.
As you may have gathered, receiving hair donations is critical for these organizations. Here's everything you need to know if you are considering donating your hair.
How Hair Donation Works
Step 1: Go to a salon.
Most any hair stylist can cut your hair to be sent to an organization for donation. Here's what happens: They will tightly band your hair into a ponytail at the nape of the neck and cut off the hair above the band. Goodbye ponytail... Hello hair donation!
The loose end of the ponytail will be secured with another band. Bands can be placed in the middle sections of the ponytail as well to ensure no hair comes loose. Some organizations also accept hair donations that are braided.
Once the hair is cut, you will take it with you, put in a plastic bag, put the plastic bag in a shipping envelope, and mail it to the organization of your choice. There they will process the hair and make it into a wig.
What It Takes
The organization takes your hair donation and poof! A wig is made! Right?
Actually, it can take between 6 and 30 individual donations to create a single wig. Furthermore, depending on the needs of the organization, one donation may be separated and used in multiple wigs. In other words, one donation usually does not equal one wig.
Making a wig, especially one with a custom fit, takes more than just hair; it can also be very costly. The cost of a custom wig made from human hair donations can range from $800-$3500. This is why most organizations rely on monetary donations as well as hair donations.
Requirements for Donation
Requirements for donation vary from organization to organization, but there are a few general guidelines.
Before donation, hair should be freshly washed, in its natural state, and free of styling products. Most charities won't accept hair that has been color treated or chemically processed. This is because the hair will need to be processed and dyed by the wig maker. Using over-processed hair will not yield a strong, long lasting wig.
Additionally, most organizations require donated hair to be at least 8 inches in length. Generally, if hair is layered, the shortest layer must be at least 8 inches long.
If the donated hair does not meet the requirements, it can be considered unusable and may be disposed of.
Tips for Hair Care Prior to Donation
- When growing out your hair, be sure to keep hair well moisturized. Use a leave in deep conditioner once a week and a thermal protection spray before using heated styling tools to prevent dryness.
- Avoid excess backcombing or teasing. This can cause breakage and damage to the cuticle, making it more difficult for hair to grow.
- Trim hair ends every 6-8 weeks to keep hair healthy and growing.
- Don't over brush your hair and always use a wide tooth comb to detangle wet hair.
Why You Should Donate
If you have hair that meets the eligibility requirements of a selected organization, it is easy to donate. Because donations can be mailed in, you can participate from literally anywhere in the world, and change the life of a person with hair loss who could not otherwise afford a wig. They will greatly benefit from the confidence that can be gained by wearing a wig and you will have helped them to feel beautiful again.
Where to Donate
Wigs for Kids is our favorite organization to send hair donations. This non-profit organization uses hair donations to make custom fitted wigs for children who experience hair loss due to chemotherapy, radiation, trichotillomania, alopecia and other medical hair loss conditions. This organization does not charge families for their services, is not government funded, and is run strictly based off of donations. They require hair donations of 12 inches or longer in length. You can find more information here.
Pantene Beautiful Lengths is a program designed to help women fighting cancer. The wigs made by this organization are donated to American Cancer Society programs across North America and distributed free of charge to women with hair loss due to cancer treatments. They require hair donations of 8 inches or longer in length. You can find more information by clicking this link.
Tips for Donating
- When donating your hair, consider making a monetary donation to the organization as well to help with the costs associated with making each wig.
- Be sure to research the organization that you select to see how your donated hair will be used. We recommend donating to charities that do not require recipients to pay anything for their wig.
- Choose an organization with a mission that closely aligns with your own values. For example, if you feel passionate about helping kids with alopecia, find an organization that supports that cause.
- Be sure to tightly secure your donation at the base and end of the ponytail to make sure that the hair does not come out of the band. Hair that comes out of the ponytail in transit could get tangled, rendering it unusable.
We hope that this article has given you all the information you need to make a difference! Go out and donate; you'll be changing someone's life, and, as an added bonus, getting a cute new hair cut! Tell us about your experience with donating hair in the comments below.